Down By Law

Champions At Heart

Written by: PP on 18/12/2012 22:29:32

You thought 90s style punk from the Epitaph school of thought was kinda dead? Not if you ask Down By Law - the 90s punk band featuring All vocalist Dave Smalley - who released a number of cult classics during the 90s that never became as popular as they probably should've been. It's been nine years since their previous album so it's about time to make a comeback, and "Champions At Heart" is just that: it's brighter and more melodic than their previous output, carrying a more mature sound if you will, but it's as big of a flagship release as I've come across this year for the open-ended chords, anthemic sing alongs, and tight skate punk riffs that characterized the Epitaph roster throughout what I'll call as the Pennywise years.

So, for newcomers and older fans alike, "Champions At Heart" basically sounds like a free-roaming mish-mash of elements from Pennywise, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, H2O, Face To Face and many other bands who made some serious waves during the 90s (excl Social D of course). They bring in distinctly old school vibes int he form of the guitar playing, but aren't afraid to rip it up skate punk style every now and then, and to deliver crunchy early 90s Bad Religion type riffing here and there. More importantly, they mix Descendents style silly lyricism ("Popcorn & Coke" - as close to an anti-vegetarian song as they come) with inspirational punk anthems like "Punk Rock United (Step I)": 'It's punk rock united, this music is our special stuff, every tattoo, every show, it's a way of life we call the road, we haven't changed the world, but we made a fuckin' start, we're digging in" - impossible to avoid singing along during this passage in particular.

Then they've got brighter songs like "Face Forward", which is a super catchy track that'll remind you of The Bouncing Souls" with its infectious uplifting chorus, and in contrast, tight and fast skate punk tracks like "Homicide" which is like straight outta late 90s Pennywise/Ignite discography. There's loads of variety if two songs alone will reference a couple of bands that far away from each other sound wise, but there's more: the Social D influence is unmistakable on especially the first half of the record, to bring in yet a third type of sound present on the CD. Often these three blend together seamlessly to deliver a true 90s style punk rock sound that should remind you of why that period is often referred to as the golden era in punk rock.

By slashing 3-4 tracks off the record "Champions At Heart" could've been even better, but even as it stands now with 16 tracks, it's a good reminder that the spirit of punk rock is well and alive in 2012. Even those who continue to claim the modern bands don't compare to the old school ones need to admit that Down By Law have delivered one of the best releases in the genre in 2012.

Download: Popcorn & Coke, Face Forward, Punk Rock United (Step I), Misfits United (Step II), Warriors United (Step III)
For the fans of: Downtown Struts, Social Distortion, Pennywise, Ignite, Face to Face, H2O
Listen: Facebook

Release date 28.07.2012
DC Jam Records

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